"There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure." ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I remember sitting next to my grandmother when I was 6 and telling her that I wanted to be a dancer as we watched one of my favourite films 'Singing in the Rain.' I used to love the way that they used to dance with these giant smiles on their faces, the way that Debbie Reynolds used to perform the exact same steps as the men, with grace and ease. Everything blew me away, the humor, the set and the songs, the passion, the performance, I loved it all.
I look back on that day sometimes and crave that naivety. The feeling that I could be wearing a floaty dress, gliding across the screen arm in arm with Gene Kelly in the 1950's. Nobody told me that 10 years later I would have my ballet teacher tell me I had the wrong colour skin to be a ballet dancer and nobody told me that I would spend the end of every meal curled over the toilet bowl before touching up my make up and running to class... and the sad thing is, I thought I was on my way to that floaty dress and that warm embrace, I thought, that was what I had to endure to get to my dream.
Another ten years on and I look back at the following 10 years, the bad decisions, the stupid mistakes, the relationships, the heartbreak, the arguments, the rebel against rules of teenage restrictions and the dismissal and denial of becoming an adult. Sometimes I think of how I turned my back on dance for 3 years, working as a receptionist, studying forensic science and yet after all that still going back to dance. I spent so many years thinking the grass was always greener on the other side, and now I know that even though that may be true in some cases, the grass will always be green where you water it.
So wait a minute, my dream was to float across the stage with Gene Kelly. Am I ever going to live my dream? Has my mind been opened to new possibilities from learning and living or am I just deviating from my original 'pre-destined' path? Are we living our dream? Where did your dream to be a dancer stem from? And I ask you, not only do you think will you ever achieve that but.. is that still your dream?
I lost my passion for dance recently but this week and last week I have been taking class with Richard Alston and performing at the Ambassadors Theatre with STOMP, my body is broken.
The brutal force of stamping my feet and slapping beats on my body, navigating a broom through space and drumming with sticks made out of hammer handles has made holding an arabesque feel like I am internally bleeding from constipation. However, once again... for the first time in 3 months, my heart is dancing and in some twisted way I envision myself floating around the stage arm in arm with Gene Kelly.
Yet I can't help but think is this it? Is this what it all boils down to? Will I be forever spending my days taking class, taking yoga and applying for auditions, whoring myself to choreographers running the risk of being repeatedly rejected and ridiculed (maybe, I don't know), or am I suppose to be something else?
Is this just a playground in which I run around, dodging and sweating, laughing and playing until one day all my friends are gone and I am stood alone realising I have been living a fantasy. As dancers do we think about the future? Do we think about what comes next? What happens after our legs don't go as high or ankles cannot support our jumps. What if we spend the whole of our careers being rejected? What if we fall out of love with our art?
Should we as dancers always have a back up plan? A 'plan B', and in creating a back up plan are we deviating from our conscious dream or are we falling back onto the path of what we were suppose to be all along?
Do you believe in fate? Are our lives pre-destined by the 'inevitable' or 'unavoidable' 'fate' or is fate just an excuse that we use to enable ourselves to not take responsibility for our present actions which can effect our future path? When people say 'everything happens for a reason' is it because you let it happen, is because you made it happen or is it that ever so reliable fate?
It's been 20 years since I sat next to my grandmother and oh how what has happened since, shape me not only into the dancer I am now but the woman I am now, the person I am now. I think about how I have let dance kick me in the face, spit on me and then I let it lay in my arms.
It's has made me laugh and cry and yet now, after everything we sit side by side drinking wine and there is a sense of understanding between us, we have stopped bickering and started collaborating and it works a lot lot better. Was it fate or did I just fight to hang onto my dream?
I watched singing in the rain the other day and as I did, I thought about how Gene Kelly used to make his dancers work all through the day and night until their feet bled. He wanted nothing but perfection. Ballet dancers do the same, dancing until their feet bleed, striving for their definition of perfection. One of the perfections of contemporary dance (in my eyes) is that you can be who ever you want to be... it took me a long time to get here but I am here.
I tried to be the pretty one, I tried to be the funny one, I tried really really hard to be the skinny one and turns out as I figure out who I really am in this world the better dancer I become. Instead of dance shaping who I am I learned to allow who I am shape the dancer I have the potential to grow into. I have lost the naivety and I'm left with a smooth yet harsh edge but I still have those wide eyes of wonder and love.
But I can't help but feel that I will never reach my dream of floating across the stage in the arms of someone... anyone like Gene Kelly. Did I deviate from my dream or was it never obtainable to begin with?